Lesson 1: Setting up the ISN




Now that you have examined exactly what an Interactive Student Notebook is, your first step in learning to implement the strategy in your classroom seems relatively simple: learn and show students how to set up an ISN. Don't think it's necessary to dwell on the set-up of notebooks? Consider this: most teachers who use ISNs say that the hardest part of using them is acclimating themselves and their students to the unique strategy. It's nearly impossible to attempt to use ISNs in your classroom without setting some ground rules about notebook set-up and required components. By examining other teachers' methods of doing so, this lesson will provide you with practical strategies for undertaking this task.

Throughout this lesson, it will do you well to recall and reflect upon the following information, as learned in the previous unit:

  • The differences between ISNs and traditional notebooks
  • The main components of effective notebooks


At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain how ISN organizational structures can vary from teacher to teacher
  • Evaluate different ISN set-up strategies
  • Generate an example worksheet or video detailing how to set up an ISN in your classroom


As mentioned in the introduction to this unit, many teachers who utilize ISNs find it very difficult to initially set up and use with their students. This might be considered one downfall of the strategy (but don't let it scare you - there is a solution). Why do you think it is so difficult?

Ponder this situation for a moment. You are a student just beginning a new school year. On the first day of school, you meet your ______ teacher, who explains that you will be using ISNs in her classroom. She gives a short overview of the notebooks and provides you with the components you must include in them. She leaves you to set it up yourself. Considering you have never used the strategy before and are acclimated to "normal" notebooks, how might you feel? Overwhelmed? Confused? Because the typical student has not had experience with ISNs and their set-up before, it is necessary for you to walk them through the initial activities and model behaviors that will be expected of them. How could you do this most effectively?

Visit the links below to explore how teachers across the curriculum introduce ISNs and their setup to students to gain a better idea of how this is accomplished. As you visit the sites, consider the pros/cons of each method and the details presented in each. When finished viewing the sites, discuss the questions below with your classmates on the class discussion board Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space.

Readings and Videos:

  • Mr. Peloquin's Notebook Setup GuideReturn to the video, also examined in unit 1, to gain a better idea of how this teacher helps students set up their interactive notebooks in this science class.


Visit Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space and in a 200-word discussion post, reflect on and answer the following questions. Read each of your classmates' posts and comment on at least two. Continue the discussion until the close of the lesson. Remember the goal of these discussions is to foster deeper understandings and personal meaning with the content. Your active participation is important in order to reach these goals.

1.Pen-explain.jpgExplain how the notebook setup procedures you viewed would facilitate the use of ISNs with students.

2.Pen-explain.jpgIdentify and Explain some of the similarities and differences among the presentations you viewed. How do you account for these similarities/differences?

3.Lightbulb-idea.jpgPredict some of the difficulties you anticipate encountering with students during the introduction and setup process. Why might they have these problems?

4.Reflecting.jpgReflect. Which setup procedure or presentation viewed was the most effective? Why?


Now that you are familiar with methods of introducing and setting up ISNs with students, develop your own means of facilitating this setup. Create a worksheet or video explaining to students the processes or steps they should follow as they setup and work with their interactive notebooks.

Tips for this assignment:

  • You may consider using one of the above teacher sites or videos as a model for your assignment (be sure to avoid plagiarism and give credit where it's due)
  • Make a plan of what to include in your ISN first. We have already learned that different teachers use ISNs in different ways. You need to decide what additional components are right for you.
  • Assume that students have no prior experience with ISNs.

When you have completed the assignment, upload it as an attachment on the discussion tab of this page. You will all find it beneficial to view and learn from each others' work.


Continue onto Unit 2, Lesson 2: Creating and Utilizing Input and Output Activities

Return to Unit 2 homepage How are Interactive Student Notebooks Used in the Classroom?

Return to course homepage Understanding and Integrating Interactive Student Notebooks in the Secondary Classroom

Return to Laura Bartlett's Portfolio